than five years of RCMP harassment against two Vancouver animal rights activists
quietly came to an end last week. On Sept. 21st, Darren Thurston and ALF Spokesperson,
David Barbarash received a letter from B.C. Crown Counsel Pat Donald, indicating
that the Crown has entered a Stay of Proceedings on all charges against them.
Darren and David are committed activists whose issues of concern include
animal/earth liberation, anti-fascist organizing, and prisoner support. Both are
former political prisoners who have done time for acting on their beliefs. Most
notably they were convicted for the liberation of 29 cats from a University of
Alberta animal facility in 1992.
It is this history of involvement in liberation
movements that lead the RCMP to falsely charge them with 23 counts of 'mailing
a dangerous device with the intent to cause harm' in 1998. Specifically, those
charges involved letters sent from Victoria to guide outfitters across BC in January
of 1996. A group called the Justice Department laid claim to sending the letters
which were booby trapped with a razor blade that was positioned in such a way
that the recipient could cut their finger while opening it. Darren and David have
always maintained their innocence on these charges.
RCMP harassment of
the pair began in 1995 when four parcel pipe bombs were sent to individuals across
Canada involved in far-right activity. Darren and David have been subjected to
extensive physical surveillance, the implantation of bugs in their homes and vehicles,
searches on four residences and two storage lockers, and the seizure of belongings
including files, clothing, tools, books, computer components, and other personal
effects. Most notably, the RCMP waged a campaign of dirty tricks against the activists
that involved the use of undercover operatives. These operatives attempted to
involve Darren and David in an arson on an abandoned building under the guise
of fighting the trade in bear parts.
An order for disclosure of surveillance
on this undercover operation likely led the Crown entering the Stay of Proceedings.
Throughout the case, Crown counsel Pat Donald, and lead RCMP/NSIS investigator
Leigh Ryan have both continually denied the existence of undercover operatives
or any dirty tricks campaign. However, the Crown's own disclosure to the defendants
contained some information about officers operating undercover. This information
allowed the defense to launch an argument for more disclosure about the constables
suspected to be involved. BC Supreme Court Judge Lysyk found this request to be
within reason and had ordered that the Crown release the info in a timely manner.
The Crown, in order to cover up its abuse of power and to quash any public discussion
on the matter, chose to enter the Stay rather than disclose this incriminating
In the end, it is questionable whether the charges laid against
Darren and David were ever meant to stick. This investigation, which proceeded
despite the lack of evidence against the pair, allowed the RCMP to harass and
maintain surveillance on many members of the activist community. Tapped phones,
infiltration, physical surveillance, and cross-country interviews gave the RCMP
a chance to develop profiles on dozens of activists. These profiles will stay
in the RCMP filing system for many years to come. Not only that, but the investigation
allowed the police to restrict the movements and activities of Darren and David,
forcing them to report to RCMP headquarters once a week and stopping them from
leaving the country, or even the province of BC without permission.
case goes to show the lengths that the Canadian government is willing to go to
criminalize a basic human right - the right to express non-violent dissent. The
information as given above should serve as a warning to all people who dare to
protest - what the RCMP did to Darren and David, they can do to anyone.
and David would like to extend their thanks to all the people who supported them
throughout this time of trial and send a message of support out to all those struggling
for liberation of humans, animals and the earth today.
Please see the background
document - Activism on Trial for more detailed information about the investigation,
the case itself and Darren and David's political work. It can be downloaded at